Earlier this month, the Tec Team exhibited at the Cactus IFT, in Phoenix, Arizona; while there, we were lucky enough to take a day trip to Saguaro National Park, located just outside of Tucson, where innumerable saguaro cacti cover the landscape. These awe-inspiring plants can tower at 40-60 feet tall, and live upwards of 200 years. They are only found in the Sonoran Desert, and are the tallest cacti in the United States.
Another cactus found in the Sonoran Desert is the Opuntia cactus, which grows the prickly pear fruit. Thanks to a wonderful park ranger, we learned all about the prickly pear. It is bright pink, said to taste similar to a watermelon, and is very popular to use in multiple recipes. A common use for the prickly pear is to make a juice, which often also contains lime juice and sugar.
When cooking with the prickly pear fruit, you have to be very careful of the glochids, tiny hair-like spines that cover the skin. There are many ways to remove the glochids, including burning and freezing, but it is recommended to always handle the fruit with thick leather gloves, to prevent these prickles from getting in your skin. The skin of the fruit is removed next, and the inside is what is used in cooking.
Thank you to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and the Rangers at the Saguaro National Park for all of this information!